A Shot of Goji, Please
[New York Times, 30 March 2008]
By RICHARD MORGAN
Chicago is known for being as hard-edged and industrial as the Sears Tower itself, but it is also Oprah’s city, Obama’s city, a city of change.
Part of that change is a smoking ban that has been detoxifying the city’s night life since the start of the year. Another element is the Butterfly Social Club, an eco-frenzied hyper-organic bar that has jolted the Fulton Market meatpacking district with its neon-green ethos.
“You have to be pure if you’re going to be inspirational,” said Mark Klemen, 32, the owner, whose Funky Buddha Lounge is next door. “The world needs this. People are wasteful, wasted, wasting away.”
Butterfly’s earthen walls (salvaged from the infamous Cabrini Green housing project) throb mostly with house and tribal beats.
On a recent night, Desarey Sims, 29, came specifically for the music, having heard that hip-hop stars like ?uestlove of the Roots (a k a Ahmir Thompson) have been regular visitors to the turntable. When Mos Def showed up seven nights in a row, Butterfly, which is open Wednesday through Sunday nights only, opened specifically for him.
Vines climb the walls of the club, which are decorated with jumbled tribal imagery and Buddhist prayer flags. Patrons can recline in pillowed booths like the one named Love Bench in the Trees, which encourages couples to massage each other’s feet. The club’s four bathrooms are divided into elements: Earth, Fire, Air and Water.
Juices are fresh-squeezed and liquors are infused with so-called “superfoods” like noni (a Polynesian berry), kombucha (a fermented tea) and goji (Tibetan berries). Coconut juice and agave nectar replace high fructose corn syrup. The bartenders’ guns squirt just water: filtered, seltzer or tonic.
“Most of the time I go to average bars with friends, I end up drinking water,” said Holly Edgin, 27, a health club manager. “It feels good to go someplace where I can drink something nonalcoholic if I want without feeling like I’m stuck with some kiddie drink.”
Ricco Garza, 27, a police officer from Texas, was attending a conference where he spoke on the links between alcohol and violence in bars. “Atmosphere is where it’s at,” he said. “People need to feel comfortable more than they need to feel buzzed.”
Butterfly Social Club
722 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, (312) 666-1695.
DRESS CODE Anything from Rastafarian to yuppie.
GETTING IN No reservations, no trouble. Be mellow.
SIGHTINGS Talib Kweli, Mos Def, ?uestlove.
SIGNATURE DRINK Jungle Cacao, $6 (organic chocolate, maca root, goji berries, Amazonian herbs and agave nectar). Available with or without alcohol.
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